5 Fake US Towns with Real Purposes

Fake towns are most fascinating places, that for a variety of reasons have existed across the United States. Whether it is for military purposes, weapons testing, or other research ends, these faux communities have served diverse needs for over 50 years. Indeed an examination of these unique “towns”, reveals a most intriguing history of human development and ingenuity. This article looks at the 5 Fake US Towns with very real purposes.

Fort Irwin, California

Aerial View of Fort Irwin in California's Mojave Desert, via Wikipedia

Situated at an elevation of 2,454 feet in California’s Mojave Desert, the base training town of Fort Irwin was first opened in 1940. Around the same size as the State of Rhode Island, this major training “town” of the United States Military provides important simulations for new and departing troops.

Soldiers move forward to search a building during training at the National Training Center
Soldiers move forward to search a building during training at the National Training Center, via Wikipedia

Featuring a series of fake cities within, including ones made to resemble typical dwellings in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers typically spend up to three weeks in Fort Irwin before deployment. And with the very hot desert temperatures ranging from the high 30s to low 40s Celsius, soldiers get a primer for the arid conditions of the battlefield, particularly those in the Middle East region, while being in California

Hogan's Alley, Virginia

The bank, post office, and drug store in Hogan’s Alley, via www.fbi.gov

Opened in 1987, Hogan’s Alley in Quantico, Virginia is the tactical training facility of the FBI Training Academy, sometimes jokingly called the “baddest town in America”.  Designed by film set designers, the “town” of Hogan’s Alley has everything Anytown, USA could offer. From a laundromat, barbershop, post office, restaurants, shops and even a small town square, this facility is full of FBI trainees and actors.

Buildings on a street corner in Hogan’s Alley, the mock town and training facility at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Buildings on a street corner in Hogan’s Alley, the mock town and training facility at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia

Playing bystanders, bank robbers, drug dealers, and other criminals, these actors help the trainees in their firearms education, practicing making arrests, crime scene processing, conducting searches and more. In this interactive town, the future class of law enforcement officers begin their journey.

Mcity, Michigan

University of Michigan's Fake Mcity Town, Ann Arbor

Constructed in 2015, Mcity is a 13 hectare mock town on the campus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Designed as a testing ground for self driving cars and wireless technology, Mcity replicates suburban America with faux buildings, streets, intersections, railroad crossings, traffic circles, and even parking spots. In an effort to create more sophisticated and ultimately safe self driving automobiles, engineering students at the University have been using Mcity as a multipurpose testing site for the inevitable arrival of the cars of tomorrow.

Nevada Test Site, Nevada

WMD/counter-terrorism training exercise at the site
WMD/counter-terrorism training exercise at the Nevada Test Site, via Wikipedia

In use since 1951, the Nevada Test Site (NTS) is one of the most famous nuclear test sites, and a prime example of the use of early fake “towns”. Located some in a desert area some 105 kilometres from Las Vegas, over the years a series of faux neighborhoods, buildings, streets, and mannequin figures have populated the NTS. Since its opening over 1,000 controlled nuclear explosions have been held in these “towns”, which in total cover an area of 3,500 square kilometres.

Tourists are allowed to visit this most special “city”, but are strictly prohibited from taking any photos, videos or bringing any cell phones. In addition, rock and soil samples are forbidden from being taken for souvenir purposes.

Mars Desert Research Station, Utah

Mars Research Station in Utah, top down aerial drone photo
Mars Research Station in Utah, top down aerial drone photo

Utah’s Mars Desert Research Station fascinatingly simulates what a potential human colony on the planet Mars would look like. Indeed at this futuristic snapshot of a truly un-Earthly community, researchers from The Mars Society aim to prepare society for foreign planet dwelling. Constructed near the small town of Hanksville in the early 2000s, this Martian city in Utah is populated solely by research scientists who conduct various experiments on the potential suitability of life on Mars.

HANKSVILLE, UTAH/USA - AUGUST 15, 2018: Panorama of the Mars Desert Research Station. MDRS is the second of four planned simulated Mars surface exploration habitats (or Mars Analogue Resear
The Mars Desert Research Station in Utah

Studying the effects of an oxygen-less atmosphere, preserving liquid water essential to life, and planting and growing food and crops, these intrepid space dreamers, have made the Mars Desert Research Station a truly out of this world “town”.

For an eclectic range of reasons, fake communities can be found acorss the United States, each with a most intriguing story. From scientific research complexes, to military training sites, to recreations of life on another planet, these faux towns offer a glimpse into the human imagination. Whether its for training or research purposes, these fake towns are definitely  curious and wonderful geographic "destinations". 

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